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The price is right

Jan 1, 2006 12:00 AM

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American Quick Printer

Some quick printers might be surprised to learn that there are greater differences in pricing for specific products within individual markets than from one region to the next.

“While there are only modest [regional] pricing differences, the differences in pricing for that specific product within a local market can be nothing short of staggering,” says John Stewart, president of Q.P. Consulting (Melbourne, FL) and co-publisher of the “2005-2006 4C Practices and Pricing Study.” “It is not unusual to find printers located within blocks of each other quoting vastly different prices for the same product,” he says. “Pricing for a certain job can easily range between $600 and $1,100 according to our statistical studies.”

Suppose you asked a dozen small printers in Philadelphia or Chicago for an all-inclusive price for printing 2,500 8.5 x 11-inch brochures, 4/4, on 100-lb. coated stock, delivered flat.

According to Stewart, the average price would range from $825 to $875 between the two cities. Based on responses from more than 200 printers located in various large cities and small towns, the national average would be $867 with a median price of $809.

Stewart says some printers can’t believe a local competitor might be able to charge 50 percent more for the same product. “It is an absolute myth that everything else being equal, jobs are awarded based upon the lowest price,” he declares. “That simply isn’t true. Studies have shown that dependability, print quality, turnaround time and business relationships typically outrank pricing when it comes to selecting a printer.”

The consultant adds that printers don’t necessarily have to lower their prices to capture work. “It frustrates me when a printer says there is no way he could charge $800 for a specific job in his marketplace. He’ll say, ‘If I wanted that job, I would have to quote $650 to get it.’ And yet, time and again our surveys indicate that the prices for that job in his market might range from $475 to more than $850,” Stewart says.

Costs and pricing are not the same thing
Printers who confuse costs with selling prices are missing the big picture. “Printers often tell me that they have to charge more for a specific job because they are producing it on a two-color landscape press while the guy down the street is using a four-color landscape for the same job,” says Stewart. “There may indeed be differences in production costs, but our pricing studies depict prices as they are, not necessarily as they should be. Although it might cost you 25 percent more to produce a job on a two-color press vs. a competitor using a four-color press, the average price of that job in the marketplace remains the same.”

While pricing is an important issue, printers who concentrate solely on matching a competitor’s rates are ignoring equally important factors, such as guaranteed delivery times, consistent quality and meeting or exceeding customers’ expectations.

“Even worse,” adds Stewart, “is that some of these printers don’t really have a handle on the pricing practices in their local markets. They think they know, because they’ve had a customer tell them they are too high or they have had a customer service representative make a few anonymous calls to other printers.”

Pricing four-color printing
The “2005-2006 4C Practices and Pricing Study” reflects changing equipment trends. Previously, co-publisher of the study NAQP/PrintImage conducted biannual research for its operating ratio and industry pricing studies.

In 2005, the association expanded its coverage and analysis of four-color printing, prompted by members’ requests as well as a dramatic increase in color capabilities among small-format (14 x 20-inch) operations.

According to John Stewart, president of Q.P. Consulting and copublisher of the study, more than 200 printers answered 100 questions on pricing four-color printing. The survey covers file preparation charges, hourly rates and estimates of chargeable time, as well as CTP trends, press sizes and specific ratings of those presses. Other items surveyed included hourly press rates, wash-up charges and coating practices.

Respondents were asked to supply the current price they were paying for paper stocks such as 70-lb. white offset, 80-lb. coated book and 100-lb. coated cover stocks. Among the survey’s most popular features is a section that lists four-color printing prices for both one- and two-sided printing for products ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 finished sheets. Respondents were asked to assume the individual items surveyed called for “pleasing, four- color process” printing and that the customer would supply the job on disk, with no corrections or changes required. The final price reflected all necessary charges, such as paper, plates, makeready and wash-up.

The 48-page study is $155 for NAQP/PrintImage members and $225 for nonmembers. See or

NAQP/PrintImage joins forces with NAPL
PrintImage International (DesPlaines, IL) (, also known as NAQP, recently formed an affiliation with another printing association, NAPL (Paramus, NJ) ( Under the terms of the agreement, NAPL will assume the administrative management of PrintImage, which remains an independent organization. PrintImage members will continue to be served by Steve Johnson, president/CEO, and Christina Vargas, vice president, from the group’s Chicago area headquarters.